You, Mr. President
Just before the November election,
Jon Stewart of Comedy Central's The Daily Show was asked which candidate
he favored. "George Bush," he answered, adding that Mr. Bush offers
the best material for comedy writers.
Mr. Stewart has a living to earn,
after all. Here at BENT, we need material too. And so, like Jon
Stewart, we rejoice in the President's reelection. No, George W.
is not himself qualified as a BENT contributor. But he is, hands
down, the "brains" behind the escalating creation of a whole new
generation of BENT writers. Nowhere can you earn more qualifications
to write for BENT, in the blink of an eye, than in the President's
Operation Disability Storm.
look at a few facts that might have escaped your attention. You
can be forgiven for not getting the Big Picture because there are,
after all, thousands of little pictures that our free society does
not permit you to see, like the hundreds upon hundreds of flag-draped
coffins shipped home by the Pentagon; like the arms and legs of
soldiers blown clean off, their brains extruded in a bloody mess
on Iraqi streets; or the (barely) patched-up bodies lying in hospital
can be forgiven for thinking, as Mark Morford wrote in the San
Francisco Chronicle, that " … war is manly and heroic and cool,
as exemplified by that now-famous shot of that macho 'Dogface' Marlboro-smokin'
Marine whose dirt-encrusted mug was eagerly picked up by newspapers
and media Web sites across the nation (including this one), and
became an instant icon for the war and the military was positively
giddy about using him as an ideal recruitment tool, a model of how
to make soldiers look all studly and rugged and badass as opposed
to the often poorly educated, disposable hunks of politically abused
postpubescent meat BushCo considers them to be."
Well, yes. There's
that, for starters.
to neurosurgeon Gene Bolles, interviewed by Lakshmi Chaudry for
about his two years in Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, the
U.S. military hospital in Germany that receives all injured soldiers
evacuated from Iraq and Afghanistan: "And this is what makes the
soldiers do what they do so gallantlythis feeling for each
other. So when they get injured, they first feel guilty that they're
not still back with their buddies. But then as time goes on, they
realize the price they paid for the war and then there is anger.
And then there is frustration, then sadness, then depression. They
realize they may never walk again or are so disfigured that the
rest of their life is going to be very difficult."
So there's the
brotherly devotion and there's the damage. There's the lifelong
still fails to add up here. It's simple. It's the figures. If we
want to appreciate the true genius of George W. Bush as a BENT recruiter,
we need to look at something pure and clean and simple: numbers.
Forget today's count of 1,329 fatalities. Dead men can't write.
It's the more than 5,300 seriously wounded Americans that I'm so
But let's remember
that the Army's definition of "seriously wounded" can be misleading,
too. "Through July," according to the New
York Times, "nearly
31,000 veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom had applied for disability
benefits for injuries or psychological ailments, according to the
Department Veterans Affairs." With that total in mind my editorial
ambitions make me positively giddy with enthusiasm.
It gets even better,
though. "An Army study," according to the same Times article, "
shows that about one in six soldiers in Iraq report symptoms of
major depression, serious anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder,
a proportion that some experts believe could eventually climb to
one in three, the rate ultimately found in Vietnam veterans. Because
about one million American troops have served so far in the conflicts
in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to Pentagon figures, some experts
predict that the number eventually requiring mental health treatment
could exceed 100,000."
can be misleading, let us, for the moment, take a conservative approach.
Let's just fold those 5,300 seriously physically wounded
to date into the 100,000 requiring mental health treatment (the
men even now enduring broken marriages and debilitating nightmares,
those unable to hold down a job in the future, those who will take
their own lives or the lives of others when the war is over) and
let us say that the total number disabled by this particular chapter
in the saga of the American Neocon Adventure will not exceed 100,000.
That's 100,000 troops disabled by the literal scars of quadriplegia,
amputated limbs and disfiguring injuries as well as those disabled
by the invisible scars of post-traumatic stress.
Are you still
with me? I'm struggling to be fair here as I recognize once again
that statistics can be misleading, so in trying to get a handle
on our potential new BENT writing pool, in trying to estimate how
many of those disabled veterans are gay (sorry, but you straight
disposable hunks of politically abused postpubescent meat will need
to find other writing opportunities) let's use the probably conservative
figure of 5% of the U.S. population arrived at by a recent
Five percent of
100,000 amounts to 5,000. Even after adjusting for the relatively
small number of women enlistees, you've got to admit that that's
still an impressive number. Just think of it! Almost 5,000 new writers
capable of telling eager readers what it's like to be disabled and
gay from a perspective new to most of us.
We queers, long
accused of recruiting, stand in awe. George W. Bush, we cannot hold
a candle to your recruiting efforts in this specialized arena. This
could be your finest hour, your greatest legacy. Gladiators in ancient
Rome hailed Caesar with, "We who are about to die salute you." George,
We who are about to tell the truth salute you.
© 2005 BENT
Photo by Mark McBeth, IDEA | MONGER
Guter has been a bilateral amputee since the age of six as the result
of congenital anomalies..
R. Killacky he edited "Queer Crips: Disabled Gay Men and
their Stories" (Harrington
Park Press), winner of a 2004 Lambda Literary Award.
His short story, "The Enemy
at Bay," is included in
Fresh Men: New Voices in Gay Fiction, published
in November 2004 by Carroll & Graf. He lives in San Francisco,
where he publishes and edits BENT.